Let the Games Begin—The World Choir Games Take Region by Storm

06 Jul 2012
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Marisa Richter

When I moved to Cincinnati five years ago, one of the first things I did was audition for the May Festival Chorus. As the official chorus of the Cincinnati Symphony & Pops Orchestras, the May Festival Chorus is a huge part of the city’s musical culture. In fact, Cincinnati’s famous Music Hall was built for the May Festival Chorus, which has been singing since 1880. Often, our repertoire consists of challenging works from the great composers of classical music—but last night we had the opportunity to do something a little different.

July 4th marked the beginning of the World Choir Games in Cincinnati, the largest choral competition in the world. 20,000 singers from 50 countries flocked to Cincinnati to compete in “the Olympics of choral music.” Over the next nine days, choirs will compete in categories from gospel to folk; barbershop to jazz; sacred music to pop. It is the largest international event in the history of Cincinnati.

The sold-out opening ceremonies at US Bank Arena had all the pomp and circumstance of the Olympic Games. As a performer, we have been working behind the scenes for weeks to prepare, and I have to say that the logistics are impressive. Organizing 382 choirs from all over the globe is not an easy task, but it was executed flawlessly.

The May Festival Chorus is the host choir and we are the featured performers in the opening and closing ceremonies. As an orchestra chorus, we are used to the sights and sounds of an orchestra audience—but when the lights lit the stage last night, we felt like rock stars. The wild roar of the crowd was deafening, and there is nothing quite like seeing a huge, sold-out arena of fans on their feet screaming their applause.

We shared the stage with Kirk Franklin, a Grammy-winning gospel artist who had the whole place on their feet. For the closing ceremonies on July 14, we’ll be singing with Idina Menzel, the superstar Broadway vocalist and cast member of Glee.

If I could describe the World Choir Games in one word, it would be “powerful.” Seeing people from all corners of the world—some in the midst of unrest and conflict—coming together for the sake of music is a very, very powerful thing. I’m so proud to be a vocal representative of my chorus, city and country.

Let the games begin!

Check out more images of the games’ opening ceremony festivities here.